Tyson Ritter (vocals/bass) and Nick Wheeler (guitar/programming) were in junior high when music started to influence them. Both were stuck in the ho-hum life of small-town America. Stillwater, OK, wasn't exactly the most exciting place in the world, so naturally the boys turned to music. While Ritter was staying up late, watching music videos, and rocking out to AC/DC, Wheeler was on the other side of town raiding his sister's music collection of Def Leppard, Poison, and Bon Jovi records. Wheeler soon picked up a guitar and later mastered the drums and piano. By high school, both were music freaks and in their own little cliques. At a party, Ritter spotted Wheeler; it's safe to say that the spiky rock fun of the All-American Rejects was established right there. Mike Kennerty (guitar) and Chris Gaylor (drums) were added to Wheeler and Ritter's rascal group by 2000 and the band was official. With production work from Tim O'Heir (Sebadoh, Juliana Hatfield, Superdrag), the All-American Rejects independently released their self-titled debut on Doghouse in October 2002; several months later it was reissued by DreamWorks.
The All-American Rejects' first DVD release is a sloppy and technically inferior affair that's as charisma-free as the band it highlights. The main course is 44 minutes of overly dark concert footage, shot on a subpar camcorder. Murky audio completes the lackluster audiovisual package. As one would expect, the camera refuses to sit still for more than a second at a time, even to the point where the cameraman swings it back and forth when only the band's logo is visible through the darkness. The guys chug along at a quick clip, playing the uninspired Good Charlotte meets blink-182 tunes that are their bread and butter, stopping only momentarily to bark out pained banter to an overjoyed audience. Also included is a mindless ten-minute Cribs-style tour of the band's crumbling home in Stillwater, OK; one of its pleasures is getting to watch one bandmember (obscured by darkness no less) crush a roach with a broom. Slick videos for 'Swing, Swing' and 'The Last Song,' perfectly syrupy for TRL, round out the DVD's offerings. After watching these two videos, one can't help but register that Ash did this teen punk-pop style of music much better, and when it was still fashionable and not simply an offering from corporate suits. As a footnote, Live from Oklahoma...The Too Bad for Hell DVD! was released just one month before the death of Elliott Smith, a labelmate who was deemed too inaccessible by Dreamworks. The label would not release Smith's album From a Basement on the Hill, but they greenlighted and bestowed the All-American Rejects an album, a concert DVD, and two expensive music videos.